Soulless wills

Daphna Hacker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


By analyzing wills submitted for execution to Israeli tribunals in the years 2000-2004, this article offers insights into the process of the legalization of death and family relations. The length, aesthetics, phrasing, and contents of the wills examined are all evidence of a process in which the personal wishes of testators are transformed into a standardized legal document that tells very little about the individual testator. The rarity of cases in which testators do use their wills to disclose personal sentiments and thoughts highlights the neglected potential of wills to constitute a unique, personal, and emotional parting statement. The article demonstrates that this potential embodies the different ways in which wills were perceived in ancient times. Inspired by these past and present examples and on the basis of a bifocal relational perception of inheritance, I argue that lawyers should adopt a broader human understanding of wills and offer their clients the option of leaving behind a will with a soul.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)957-983
Number of pages27
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2010


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